A team of Australian scientists from the University of Sydney are taking 3D printing to a whole new level of medical usefulness. For the past few years this team, led by professor Hala Zreiqat, have been working on a 3D printed substitute for bones, whose exact characteristics have so far been impossible to reproduce synthetically.
Professor Hala Zreiqat and a team of scientists have succeeded in developing a printable material that is a hundred times stronger than current synthetic materials used to copy bone structures. The Australian researchers, in a collaborative effort with Shanghai Ninth People's Hospital, can now print a material that can recreate the exact skeletal structure of any patient.
Scientists at University College London are using 3D printing to create ears to be implanted onto children with severe disfigurements. The BBC reports.
The scientific team has been testing the process by implanting a 3D ear on a rat. The operation filmed by BBC Inside Out is a major medical breakthrough and could radically change organ transplants.
The next stage is to trial the operation in India where there are already a dozen children ready to undergo the surgery in Mumbai. There is a desperate need for this type of facial reconstruction in India.
In severe burn injuries, both the epidermis (outer layer of the skin) and the dermis (inner layer) are severely damaged, and it usually takes at least two weeks for skin cells to be grown in a laboratory to be grafted on to a patient.
As both layers of skin are made from completely different cells that have different structures, it is very difficult for the body to regenerate itself and burn victims can die if their wounds cannot be closed quickly enough.
Add to that, until now, scientists have had a hard time trying to create artificial skin grafts using 3D printers, due to the complexity involved in printing several successive complex layers, each consisting of a different type of cells.
So instead of trying to replicate a real human skin graft, the PrintAlive Bioprinter creates a type of "living bandage" from hydrogel.
Students Arianna McAllister, Lian Leng and Boyang Zhang worked with Axel Guenther, an associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at the University of Toronto, and Sunnybrook Research Institute burn surgeon Dr Marc Jeschke to develop a special printer cartridge.
TeVideo BioDevices is a privately held biotechnology company using 3D bio-printing of a woman’s own living cells – to build custom grafts for breast cancer reconstruction. Their first product is targeted to improve nipple reconstruction and later fill lumpectomies and other fat grating needs.
The company is developing propriety, patent-pending, bioprinting technology, CellatierTM, and when combined with a woman’s own living cells will build a custom NAC graft made just for her.
... TeVido completed a first round of lab tests on just a $150,000 grant from the National Science Foundation and is hoping to receive another from the National Institutes of Health. In order to move into the second phase of testing, TeVido is seeking more funding.
The US Army is hoping to soon begin clinical trials with 3D-printed skin. The goal is helping soldiers better recover from injuries sustained in battle—and the Army also actively developing artificial 3D printed hearts, blood vessels, and other organs. [via Motherboard]
In the latest issue of Army Technology, an official publication of the US military, Army researchers claim that the future of medicine is customizable, available on-demand, and 3D printed.
"The scars that soldiers develop as a result of burns constrict movement and disfigure them permanently," Michael Romanko, a doctor with the Army's Tissue Injury and Regenerative Medicine Project told the magazine. The initiative to restore high-quality skin that is elastic and complete with sweat glands, appropriate pigmentation, and hair follicles is incredibly important. Everyone has a different type of energy, and not everyone's skin injury looks the same. Skin bioprinting would provide a scalable form of personalized medicine.
A living replica of the ear Vincent van Gogh is said to have cut off during a psychotic episode in 1888 is now on display at a museum in Germany. [via The Wall Street Journal]
Artist Diemut Strebe used cells from Lieuwe van Gogh, the great-great-grandson of Vincent’s brother Theo, to grow the ear and a 3-D printer to shape it. The artist said the ear, which was grown at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, is being kept alive inside a case containing a nourishing liquid and could theoretically last for years. The ear is identical in shape to van Gogh’s ear, according to the museum.
... The exhibition runs through July 6 at The Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany. The artist plans to display the ear in New York next year.
The device, designed for use outside the body uses nanoparticles to trap pore-forming toxins that can damage cellular membranes and are a key factor in illnesses that result from animal bites and stings, and bacterial infections. Their findings were published May 8 in the journal Nature Communications.
Chemistry professor Hagan Bayley and his team from the University of Oxford have designed a customised 3D printer which can churn out thousands of fake-flesh cells at a time. The Oxford Mail reports.
These are made up of thousands of tiny water droplets, each coated in a thin film studded with protein pores. It mimics a living cell and can be used to help heal wounds and test new drugs.
The professor, who has netted £1m worth of investment for his university spin-out company OxSyBio, is based at the university’s chemistry research lab in Mansfield Road.
He said: “It all goes back to the Lego bricks many of us played with when we were kids. “What this 3D printing technique does is to build something layer by layer and the bricks in this case happen to be these droplets. “This can create materials that can replace our own cellular tissues and the 3D printer can produce several different types of cells at once.
Developed by researchers at the medical technology firm NEXT21 K.K. and the University of Tokyo’s brain science institute RIKEN, the new printer is capable of creating artificial bone material that is accurate up to 0.1mm (0.0039in). Engineering.com reports.
Building artificial bone from calcium phosphate, which is a component of both human bones and teeth, the printer’s product should be able to integrate directly into a patient’s body where it will fuse with existing bone.
According to NEDO, this new printing technology makes the complicated process of bone grafting much easier, reducing the healing time for patients suffering from broken limbs or bone removal due to cancer therapies.
Next21is set to begin a series of trials that will last around 10 months. If successful, the company hopes to roll their printer out across Asia, providing artificial bone replacement therapies to hospitals across the continent.
A 3D-printed model of a cancerous tumour created by researchers from the US and China could give researchers a new way of conducting medical studies. Wired.co.uk reports.
Using a special 3D cell printer developed by the research team, the tumour model is created from a scaffold of fibrous proteins coated in cervical cancer cells and provides a realistic representation of a tumour's environment.
Cervical cancer cells, known as Hela cells, have been chosen for the research due to their ability to divide indefinitely in lab conditions. Researchers hope the cells will help them better understand how tumours develop, grow and spread throughout the body.
2D models that consist of a single layer of cells already exist and have been used in studies, but researchers have been restricted with regards to what they can achieve with them. While these models mimic the physiological environment of a tumour, they don't provide a realistic representation of one.
... Commenting on the development, Dr Samuel Godfrey, Cancer Research UK's science information manager told Wired.co.uk: "Using 3D printers to build living models of tumours in a lab is a fascinating technique that could give scientists a new way of making their experiments more realistic.
It may sound far-fetched, but scientists are attempting to build a human heart with a 3-D printer. Stuff reports.
Ultimately, the goal is to create a new heart for a patient with their own cells that could be transplanted. It is an ambitious project to first, make a heart and then get it to work in a patient, and it could be years - perhaps decades - before a 3-D printed heart would ever be put in a person.
The technology, though, is not all that futuristic: Researchers have already used 3-D printers to make splints, valves and even a human ear.
So far, the University of Louisville team has printed human heart valves and small veins with cells, and they can construct some other parts with other methods, said Stuart Williams, a cell biologist leading the project. They have also successfully tested the tiny blood vessels in mice and other small animals, he said.
Williams believes they can print parts and assemble an entire heart in three to five years.
The finished product would be called the "bioficial heart" - a blend of natural and artificial.
The flexible custom-fitted silicon membrane wraps around the heart like a glove, and its embedded sensors can measure temperature, mechanical strain, and pH as well as deliver a pulse of electricity when the heart beats irregularly. It's possible the membrane, which could be used in patients in 15 years, could also include a sensor to measure troponin, a protein that, when released in high levels, could signal a heart attack. The video above shows a demonstration of the membrane over a rabbit's heart.
Researchers in Australia have developed a pen to deposit regenerative stem cells onto damaged bone and cartilage in a process similar to 3D printing. Dezeen reports.
The BioPen was created in the laboratories of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) at the University of Wollongong in New South Wales. It combines principles from 3D printing with stem cell research to enable missing or diseased bone to be replaced faster and more accurately.
London designer and researcher Shamees Aden is developing a concept for running shoes that would be 3D-printed from synthetic biological material and could repair themselves overnight.[via Dezeen]
Aden developed the project in collaboration with Dr Martin Hanczyc, a professor at the University of Southern Denmark who specialises in protocell technology. Protocells are very basic molecules that are not themselves alive, but can be combined to create living organisms.
By mixing different types of these non-living molecules, scientists are attempting to produce artificial living systems that can be programmed with different behaviours, such as responsiveness to pressure, light and heat.
"The cells have the capability to inflate and deflate and to respond to pressure," Aden told Dezeen at the Wearable Futures conference in London. "As you're running on different grounds and textures it's able to inflate or deflate depending on the pressure you put onto it and could help support you as a runner.
Researchers at the University of Liverpool are developing synthetic skin that can be produced on a 3D printer and matched to a person based on their age, gender and ethnic group. PhysOrg reports.
Working alongside colleagues at the University of Manchester, Liverpool researchers are now developing 3D image processing and skin modelling techniques that can copy a person's skin so that it appears natural, whatever light it is shown in.
While it is possible to print synthetic skin in one tone, this does not reflect the diversity of the surface which in real life will be patterned by freckles, veins and wrinkles. People walking between daylight and artificial light also take on a different shade, so any synthetic skin has to produce the same effect.
Williams says he and his team of more than 20 have already bioengineered a coronary artery and printed the smallest blood vessels in the heart used in microcirculation. "These studies have reached the advanced preclinical stage showing printed blood vessels will reconnect with the recipient tissue creating new blood flow in the printed tissue."
The team has also worked on other methods of bioengineering tissue, including electrospinning for the creation of large blood vessel scaffolds that can then be joined with bioprinted microvessels.
But why print the parts, when you can print the whole in one go? We shouldn't just be able to repair the heart using bioengineering, but replace it.
... Bioengineers have already 3D printed a tiny functioning liver, but the problem is keeping it alive. The liver, for instance, was just a millimetre thick and four millimetres wide, and survived only five days.
Using a bio-printer hacked together from a MakerBot printer, Faulkner-Jones demonstrated how human stem cells can be printed into micro-tissues and micro-organs. These miniature biological systems, otherwise known as systems-on-a-chip, not only resemble humans genetically, but they also respond as if it is a living miniature organ. This allows for more effective drugs tests that show side effects first hand.
Faulkner-Jones believes the technology could replace cruel and often inaccurate animal testing within five years. In addition to sparing animals, this technology could mitigate the issue of having to develop medicines that work perfectly on animals before they can be tested on humans, which slows down the process.
3-D printing has lately gained momentum as a (cheap, quick) manufacturing endpoint in and of itself. “The biggest advantage of 3D printing is that everything is customizable,” said Markus Fromherz, Xerox’s chief innovation officer in healthcare. Quartz reports.
There are three categories of healthcare where 3-D printing could be applied, or is already, Markus Fromherz, Xerox’s chief innovation officer in healthcare. said: for body parts or prosthetics (sometimes called “scaffolding”), medical devices, and human tissues.
Printing technology has already revolutionized joint replacements, Fromherz said. “Knee replacement is a very common procedure, there are six or so different types of knees that doctors use,” he said, adding, “with each one you need to cut the bone differently.”
But with 3-D printing, doctors aren’t limited to those six knees. They can design one specific to each patient.
Patients with custom knees don’t have to lose extra inches of bone, instead the surgeon can cut at the optimal point, which could lead to faster recovery times and better functionality.
Strong, flexible new knee joints mimicking bone and cartilage can now be printed with nylon. These surgeries are available at top-tier medical facilities like the Mayo Clinic.
2. Medical devices
Most hearing aids are already 3-D printed, since these have always been customized to the user, and scanning, modeling, and printing saves time over casting a handmade mold of the inner ear. What used to take a week now takes less than a day.
Similarly, making crowns and dental implants–once a two week process–can happen while the patient reads a magazine in the waiting room.
3. Human tissues
Scientists have printed artificial meat tissue suitable for eating, but making tissues and organs that maintain life has been much harder. So far, printed bits of functional liver tissue in Petri dishes could be viable for testing drugs, and larger models have been useful for surgeons to practice technique.
“Printing functional human tissue will be a game changer, but it’s far out,” Fromherz said.
... It still takes at least 30 minutes to print anything. The technology may one day be most useful at military field hospitals or at the scene of an accident, where immediately creating splints, body parts or devices could save lives, but it’s not quick enough yet to be implemented.
“There will be 3-D printers, I’m sure, in every home and hospital in the future,” Fromherz said. “But right now the tech isn’t fast enough.
Laura Bosworth CEO of TeVido BioDevices says they started out with a modified HP Deskjet printer and instead of filling the cartridges with ink they injected them with biomaterial and printed out skin.
"We have a combination of living cells and ingredients that we use inside these cartridges and layer by layer we build up either the nipple or lumpectomy void to match what is what you need and what you are missing," Bosworth said. "We would be able to use a woman's own cells and match whatever she has existing and create something that would be more permanent."
Plastic surgeon Dr. Ned Snyder says it has the promise to be a game changer for breast reconstruction.
By harnessing the liver's natural ability to regenerate itself, researchers at Organovo were able to create a piece of liver that was able to operate like a regular healthy liver, filtering out toxins and drugs and keeping in nutrients — for up to 40 days. DVICE reports.
That extended record beat the company's previous results in April, when the liver slice was able to keep functioning for just over five days. That's a 700 percent increase.
The 3D-printed liver slices showed a normal reaction to acetaminophen (you know, Tylenol) and other drugs, suggesting that it functions on par with a normal human liver. However, the success of the printed liver slices are not yet an indication for full 3D organ transplant operations. A full-grown liver contains tiny networks of blood vessels to stay healthy, which poses a challenge to replicate in 3D printing.
Still, since the human liver is less complex in makeup when compared to other organs, a fully printed liver may be one of the first organs to be successfully recreated. Even millimeter-thick mini-portions of liver could potentially help needy patients who don't require a full organ transplant.
Organovo is planning on using its liver slices in the 3D Human Liver Project in 2014. The project will test human tissue response in drug candidates to provide more accurate results for pharmaceutical research than animal testing can yield. The results can then be used to develop more effective new drugs, perhaps with less side effects.
Almost every day it seems there's a new use for 3-D printing. npr reports.
In medicine, the printers are already making prosthetic hands, hearing aid cases and parts of human ears.
But the materials used in some 3-D printing processes could be toxic to humans, particularly if the products get inside the body. So researchers have been looking for ways found a way to replace some of the bad stuff with naturally occurring riboflavin, or vitamin B2.
Riboflavin is found in lots of food, including green veggies, nuts and fish. Our cells aren't programmed to reject it, which could make it handy for use in 3-D printed medical implants, microneedles or scaffolding to build custom body parts in the lab.
The researchers focused on a 3-D printing technique called two-photon polymerization, which can produce finely detailed, microscopic structures. The 3-D printer uses lasers to transform a potion of light-sensitive chemicals into a solid structure.
But some of the chemicals in that potion can be bad for us, says biomedical engineer Roger Narayan, one of the researchers behind the new technique. "And if they leach out of the material they can cause problems," he says.
Narayan tells Shots that while this technology isn't ready for human use, it could be before long. "I don't think anyone 10 or 20 years ago thought that you'd be making hearing aid shells or ... dental devices using 3-D printing," he says.
So far, the researchers have tested the material with cells taken from cows. They published their findings in the journal Regenerative Medicine. Before testing the material in animals or humans, they plan to refine it further.
Miniature human organs made by 3D printing could create a "body on a chip" that enables better drug testing. That futuristic idea has become a new bioprinting project backed by $24 million from the U.S. Department of Defense. TechNewsDaily reports via Fox News reports.
The institute is now announcing it's starting a project to develop 10 such chips and wire them together so they can interact in one complex system. Institute scientists will also build a controller for the chips that will send fluids in and out of the system and measure the biochemistry inside.
While computer engineers and neuroscientists put their heads together to try to simulate the brain, biologists and makers are teaming up to 3D print the body. Motherboard.vice reports.
It's been possible to print out parts of the body for years now, but now scientists are edging closer to being able to create regenerative, living cells—in other words, a liver or heart that is fully functioning, that humans can actually use.
This week, scientists at St Vincent’s Hospital in Australia got one step closer to this goal when they successfully "grew" cartilage from stem cells. They created custom equipment to better insert live cells inside a 3D-printed structure. “We are trying to create a tissue environment that can ‘self-repair’ over many years," wrote lead researcher Gordon Wallace.
Eventually, the idea is to use stem cells from patients' own bodies to print and grow all kinds of inner body parts—muscles, fat, bone, arteries, and tendons. Within a few years, it could be possible to develop custom-made printed human organs, researchers say.
... Fully functional, made-to-order organs is seriously mind-boggling to think about. Not only could the process potentially save the lives of the 118,000 people currently on the national donor waiting list, it could conceivably extend the lifespan of thousands more. But printing the human body is no easy task.
China is taking revolutionary steps in 3D printing. Researchers in Hang-Zhou unveiled the country’s first 3D bio-printer that makes human body parts. It’s a move that has raised ethical questions for some. Watch video on CNN.
New Scientist points out that The Hangzhou team aren't the only ones 3D-printing spare parts for people. Earlier this year, a team at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, also demonstrated an ear printer, and Organovo in San Diego, California, are on the way to building fresh human livers.
Substitute skin products are available, but they are limited in size and some require a lengthy preparation time. With traditional skin grafts, many burn patients don't have enough unburned skin to harvest grafts. A new approach is needed to immediately stabilize the wound and promote healing.
In our project to “print” skin cells on burn wounds.we place cells in vials, rather than in cartridges, and "print" them directly onto the wound. A laser first scans the wound, so that a "map" can be created to direct the printer precisely where to place each cell type.
Mice with wounds similar to burn wounds healed in three weeks with bioprinting. In animals without the treatment, wound healing took five weeks. The goal of the project is to develop a treatment that can quickly cover and stabilize a wound. Research has shown that the longer it takes to cover a wound with skin, the higher the risk of infection, complications, and death.
This video -- with a mock hand and burn -- demonstrates the process.
A Dutch company called SkinPrint is also working with 3D printers to treat burn wounds. Instead of printing cells directly onto the victim's burn wounds they are working to create universal transplantable skin grafts.
Using 3D printing technology, MIT scientists have developed a process that allows them to turn designs into physical fracture-resistant, bone-like structures within just a few hours, according to their report in the journal Advanced Functional Materials. RedOrbit reports.
While some of physical samples created by the team fracture similar to bones, one of the synthetic structures hierarchical design was changed such that it is 22 times more fracture-resistant than its strongest component material.
"The geometric patterns we used in the synthetic materials are based on those seen in natural materials like bone or nacre, but also include new designs that do not exist in nature," said study co-author Markus Buehler, an engineering professor at MIT.
"As engineers we are no longer limited to the natural patterns," he added. "We can design our own, which may perform even better than the ones that already exist.
Organovo has pioneered a form of bioprinting that uses a specialized 3D printer to build human tissue by using cells as a sort of "human ink." As of yet, they are not able to print an entire human organ, although that is one of their goals. Currently, they print assays of tissue that pharmaceutical companies use for the testing of their products.
In this video, Organovo's CEO Keith Murphy is interviewed on CBC News' Lang & O'Leary Exchange. [via 3DPrintingEvent]
Researchers at Princeton recently unveiled this bionic ear that can restore the sense of hearing for the deaf. The latest bit of progress in their greater ambition to build spare parts for would be human cyborg.
The ear takes advantage of a new polymer-based gel that's partially made up of calf cells, and it can ostensibly be used for other parts as well. And get this: it even picks up radio signals.
Scientists at Cornell University, led by Dr. Lawrence J. Bonasser, are pioneering a spinal surgery that sounds like something straight out of science fiction. Utilizing 3D printing techniques loaded with stem cell-infused bio-ink, they aim to repair the degenerative spinal discs of 30 million ailing Americans. DVICE reports.
... In more extreme cases of spinal degeneration, Dr. Bonasser's lab is also capable of creating entirely new spinal discs, printed to the individual needs of each patient. The surgery to replace a disc is a bit more invasive than the one to repair it, but both options are vastly superior to the previous option of fusing a patient's spine.
The real breakthrough will be when we begin seeing this sort of operation performed on human subjects - hopefully soon.
Organovo has successfully 3D printed a liver - but it's tiny - just half a millimetre deep and 4 millimetres across but can perform most functions of the real thing. New Scientist reports.
To create them, a printer builds up about 20 layers of hepatocytes and stellate cells – two major types of liver cell. Crucially, it also adds cells from the lining of blood vessels. These form a delicate mesh of channels that supply the liver cells with nutrients and oxygen, allowing the tissue to live for five days or longer. The cells come from spare tissue removed in operations and biopsies.
... Organovo's ultimate goal is to create human-sized structures suitable for transplant; the big hurdle is being able to print larger branched networks of blood vessels to nourish such an organ. The company unveiled the mini-livers at the annual Experimental Biology conference this week in Boston.
Print-your-own breast implants could be one of the new products in the $8.4 billion market of 3D printer products projected for 2025, reports MedCity News via @dimensionext.
TeVido BioDevices is working to commercialize technology that would allow doctors to use a patient’s own fat to print a customized breast implant. The initial focus is reconstructive surgery after breast cancer, but the technology could also make plastic surgery cheaper and more successful.
A team of scientists at Oxford University have printed — yes, printed — what could be the predecessors to usable synthetic human tissue. VentureBeat reports.
The researchers released a paper called A Tissue-Like Material, announcing that they created their own version of a 3D printer, saying the current ones on the market couldn’t print what they were after, according to PhsyOrg. And what were they after? A protein sack of water that can mold itself into different shapes and perform similar functions to human cells. After developing the printer, the team was able to print out a series of droplets that formed a network of human-like cells that could act like nerves and send electrical signals across the network.
"We aren’t trying to make materials that faithfully resemble tissues but rather structures that can carry out the functions of tissues,” said Oxford University Chemistry Professor Hagan Bayley, according to PhsyOrg.
The researchers say that while their cells were nearly five times bigger than that of an average human cell, they believe the cells could be printed far smaller. They also noted that while their research only led them to print out two different types of cells, 50 or more kinds could be replicated. The cells currently only live for a few weeks.
The area of "bioprinting" - the 3-D printing of human organs for transplant - is still in its infancy. Bioprinters use a "bio-ink" made of living cell mixtures to build a 3-D structure of cells, layer by layer, to form tissue. This tissue is then developed into organs. David Tan reports for South China Morning Post.
... Replacing human body parts that are primarily made of cartilage, such as joints, the trachea and the nose, is helped by the fact that cartilage does not require a blood supply to survive. Building organs that rely on blood is trickier - though University of Pennsylvania scientists have been making advances in this area.
In a study published last year in the journal Nature Materials, the scientists showed that 3-D printed templates of filament networks can be used to rapidly create vasculature and improve the function of engineered living tissues. Without a vascular system, which delivers nutrients while removing waste products, living cells on the inside of a 3-D body part cannot survive.
Building a vascular network is tricky because the layer-by-layer fabrication of 3-D printing creates structural seams between the layers, which could burst when fluid is pumped through them at high pressure - as in the body's blood vessels.
The researchers designed 3-D filament networks in the shape of a vascular system that sat inside a mould. The mould and the vascular template were removed once cells were added to form a solid gel tissue around the filaments.
Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of the biohacker movement (see “Doing Biotech in My Bedroom”), whose aim is to tweak everyday technologies and make it affordable and easy for anyone to manipulate DNA, cells, and other of life’s building blocks. The far-fetched possibilities ring too close to bad science fiction. Other skeptics think these bio-tinkerers won’t produce much more than elaborate science fair projects.
And it’s true, the new DIY bioprinter isn’t a fundamental breakthrough—well-funded academic and corporate research labs already work with more sophisticated 3-D printing equipment to layer cells and build artificial tissue structures as they try to engineer entire organs and replacement human parts.
Printing out body parts? Cornell University researchers showed it's possible by creating a replacement ear using a 3D printer and injections of living cells. [via stuff]
The work reported Wednesday is a first step toward one day growing customized new ears for children born with malformed ones, or people who lose one to accident or disease.
This first-step work crafted a human-shaped ear that grew with cartilage from a cow, easier to obtain than human cartilage, especially the uniquely flexible kind that makes up ears. Study co-author Dr Jason Spector of Weill Cornell Medical Center is working on the next step - how to cultivate enough of a child's remaining ear cartilage in the lab to grow an entirely new ear that could be implanted in the right spot.
Related: - 3D printing a new ear Ernst Jan Bos, a Dutch medical researcher at VUMC, Amsterdam is using a Ultimaker 3D printer to print 'scaffold' upon which new human body parts may one day be grown. As a specialist in plastic surgery he hopes this technology could be used for facial reconstruction of burn patient. via 3ders.org.
Printers that spit out three-dimensional human cells and even organs, including the heart and liver, may seem like science fiction. But real scientists are taking real cracks at such a reality. Here are seven cool uses of such printing that could revolutionize medicine.
A team of researchers in Scotland are creating the world’s first artificial liver tissue made from human cells, a technology they say has the potential to both speed up and slash the cost of testing and producing new drugs. new.scotsman reporst.
A team at Heriot-Watt University is using the cells to build liver tissue which will become a testing platform for drugs to treat a range of illnesses. It is hoped that the development of artificial livers will reduce and ultimately replace the need to test medicines on animals.
Will Shu, a lecturer in micro-engineering who is leading the research, said: “The medical benefits could be enormous. Artificial human liver tissues could be very valuable to drug development because they mimic more closely the response of drugs on humans, helping to select safer and more efficient drug candidates.”
With the human cells, the Scottish scientists are working to create miniature human liver tissues and have already developed a process known as “livers-on-a-chip” which “prints” the cells in 3D onto testing surfaces.
... Despite major scientific advances, artificial livers do not yet exist because of the complex nature of their creation. The scientists at Heriot-Watt are leading the way, but believe it could take between two and three years before a viable organ is produced.
... Today, researchers use animal models and cell lines to identify and test potential new drugs. Having more robust, 3D disease models for what Carroll called “preclinical-plus” testing could give researchers better insight into how tumors behave and how they respond to drugs.
Leng’s printer forms its sheet of soft tissue as it works. It can also build up the material – made mostly from living cells – to varying thicknesses, textures and densities. It’s a 3-D tissue printer that could save lives and revolutionize burn care around the world.
The device is still at a prototype stage, with live-animal testing of its output to begin later this year. If successful, Leng’s tissue printer could mark a huge advance in quality of life and survivability for severely burned patients, and dramatically reduce treatment costs. Eventually it could morph into a machine for fabricating internal organs.
Currently all bioprinters are experimental. However, in the future, bioprinters they could revolutionize medical practice as yet another element of the New Industrial Convergence.
In Situ Bioprinting — The potential to use bioprinters to repair our bodies in situ is pretty mind blowing. In perhaps no more than a few decades it may be possible for robotic surgical arms tipped with bioprint heads to enter the body, repair damage at the cellular level, and then also repair their point of entry on their way out. Patients would still need to rest and recuperate for a few days as bioprinted materials fully fused into mature living tissue. However, most patients could potentially recover from very major surgery in less than a week.
Cosmetic applications — As well as allowing keyhole bioprinters to repair organs inside a patient during an operation, in situ bioprinting could also have cosmetic applications. For example, face printers may be created. These would evaporate existing flesh and simultaneously replace it with new cells to exact patient specification. People could therefore download a face scan from the Internet and have it applied to themselves. Alternatively, some teenagers may have their own face scanned, and then reapplied every few years to achieve apparent perpetual youth.
Replacement organs — As bioprinters enter medical application, so replacement organs will be output to individual patient specification. As every item printed will be created from a culture of a patient's own cells, the risk of transplant organ rejection should be very low indeed.
By using MRI scans to map the blood vessels in the brains of those with aneurysms, researchers at Arizona State University can recreate those vessels in physical models with the aid of Solidscape 3D printing to better understand the effects of devices that are intended to prevent aneurysms from rupturing.
Autodesk, the industry leader in CAD software, has announced it is partnering with biological printer manufacturer Organovo to create 3-D design software for designing and printing living tissue. Wired reports.
It’s an area of interest to Autodesk, whose software runs the industrial design and architecture worlds, allowing them to expand further into new fields by helping researchers interface with new tools.
Organovo’s bioplotter, one of the only machines that can shape living tissue, works like a standard desktop 3-D printers but uses living cells instead of ABS plastic. It creates tissue by printing a gel base material as a scaffold and then deposits cells which mature into living material that can be used in the process of developing new pharmaceuticals.
Specific details about the system, including pricing and availability, are not yet available. Even with scant details, executives at both companies are excited about the potential of such a system.
Unlike other treatments for diseases, Parabon’s technique relies on an insightful understanding of human DNA coupled with a nanoscale printing technique.
According to Steven Armentrout, co-developer of Parabon’s technology, “We can now ‘print,’ molecule by molecule, exactly the compound that we want… What differentiates our nanotechnology from others is our ability to rapidly, and precisely, specify the placement of every atom in a compound that we design.